Natural Horsekeeping: The Problem With Parasites

More and more horse owners are choosing a natural alternative to chemical-based dewormers. Jody Webb explains the logic.

Top: Worm Gone Max, available from

From Jody:

Parasites are not a new thing. Horse owners have been fighting parasites since the dawn of time. It’s one of the “ickier” aspects of owning animals of any type. However, there is quite a bit of misinformation out there regarding the subject. As summer kicks into high gear, it’s time to start thinking about practical (and healthy) ways of looking at the problem of parasites and making the best decision for all of your furry friends.

Misinformation#1: ALL PARASITES ARE BAD!

Parasites are considered invaders in the body, but in reality there are many “co-hosts” in a body that help keep it in balance and healthy. For example, there are tiny parasites that live in your eyelashes. You never know they are there, and they do no harm. They feed off the dead skin cells and oils that are a natural part of your eyelashes.

Just as those parasites are harmless to the body, so science is finding that certain parasites can be beneficial to the body. While an over load of any type of parasite can be bad, some intestinal parasites are showing to have benefits on the immune system. By completely wiping out all intestinal parasites, we may actually be doing more harm than good.


Importance of T helper cells in an immune response: T helper cells recognize antigens from antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and then release cytokines and activate other immune cells. Parasitic worms influence what kinds of T helper cells are activated. Source: Creative Commons.


We as animal owners have been stirred up into a frenzy over the thought of a single parasite being inside our dear pet’s body. Chemical poisons have become the mainstay for getting rid of these parasites. The truth is, natural products, some good common sense and preventative measures are all that is needed to keep parasites to a healthy level. Stop and think. In order to kill off parasites with poison, you are introducing poison to the very animal you love! While there may be need to do this in some extreme situations, the facts are that there are other natural healthy ways of keeping parasite populations under control.

Some preventative measures for controlling parasites.

  • Feed off the ground. Feed in dry areas. Keep feeding areas clean of all feces and mud.
  • When feeding in a stall, use hay bags, and sweep the area where food may drop when cleaning.
  • Keep new animals separated from existing stock until after they have gone through a deworming protocol.

While these preventative measures are good for controlling parasite populations externally, there are also many good ways of controlling parasite infestations internally. Some of these measures include:

  • Feeding a healthy, balanced, as natural as possible diet. Chemical and sugar laden feeds lower the immune system and create a perfect atmosphere for parasites. A healthy immune system limits parasitic infestations. Remember: A horse’s weight DOES NOT indicate health!
  • A balanced diet including an abundance of vitamins and minerals determines the health of the body which can more accurately be seen through a shiny coat, clear eyes, hooves that grow regularly and healthy energy levels.
  • Regular use of natural deworming products such as food grade Diatomaceous earth, anti parasitic herbs, nutritional yeast and garlic help repel parasites before they can take over as well as adding health benefiting vitamins and minerals to the diet.
  • Leaning more on fecal tests rather than a rotational paste deworming schedule with both save your horse from poisons but will also in the long run save money. Not only are natural deworming protocols competitively priced, they have many health benefits.
Flickr/ Don J Schulte, Creative Commons License.

Your horse’s feeding environment can play a role in parasite prevention. Photo: Flickr/ Don J Schulte, Creative Commons License.

Misinformation #3: I MUST DEWORM EVERY MONTH!

Deworming schedules are all about risk. A single horse kept in a well maintained stall is not going to have the same risks as a horse that is out in a muddy turnout with other horses. A horse that is at higher risk of infestation should be treated differently than a horse that has much less chance of coming into contact with parasites. A horse that is at its peak health wise is also not going to have the same problems with parasites as a very young or very old horse. Some thought needs to be put into the process.


Age is a factor when selecting an appropriate deworming program. Photo: Flickr/ Thenbman, Creative Commons License.


Some parasites reproduce during the full moon, some during the half moon. At that time the adults detach from the stomach lining and this provides your best chance to flush them from the intestinal tract. Unlike paste dewormers, herbal based dewormers can be used for several days in a row in order to improve your chances of catching these parasites at the correct time. Also different parasites are more prevalent at different times of year, depending on weather and location. Researching parasites for your area and climate will help you determine what your deworming schedule should be.

Putting some time and thought into preventing parasites will not only give you a healthier horse, but a happier pocketbook. Exposing your horse to any type of poison can lead to health issues, as well as costing you more in vet visits. If you choose to use chemical based paste dewormers, use them wisely and research the side effects, both short and long term.

From a warning label on Panacur: “User warnings, direct contact with skin should be kept to a minimum. Wear impermeable rubber gloves while administering the product. Wash hands after use. Disposal warnings. Dangerous to fish and aquatic life. Do not contaminate ponds, waterways or ditches with the product or used container. Dispose of any unused product and empty containers in accordance with guidance from your local waste regulation authority. Withdrawal periods; Not to be used in horses intended for human consumption. Treated horses may never be slaughtered for human consumption. The horse must have been declared as not intended for human consumption under national horse passport legislation. For animal treatment only. Keep out of reach and sight of children.”

That's a lot of fine print. Photo:

That’s a lot of fine print. Photo:

Is this really something you want to put into your horse? Choose wisely!

Jody Webb is the “Solepreneur” of AverageJo Equine, with a line of all natural supplements for horses and dogs. Her Wild Horse and Wild Dog line of products is the focus of years of research with the goal of taking your pets away from chemical laden feeds and supplements and taking them back to as close to nature as is possible in a tamed environment. With her three horses, two dogs, two cats, various rescue horses and their individual issues, there are plenty of willing volunteers with which to perfect each product. This desire came upon finding her then new horse Gideon was suffering from a metabolic disorder called EPSM. Though this disorder can never be cured and there will always be lifelong health issues for Gideon, he has gone from a cranky, underweight and severely in pain train wreck to a sassy and healthy looking beast! Jody is now taking her knowledge learned from owning such a difficult animal to moving on and helping other horse and dog owners have healthier, happier pets. Her writing comes out of the joys and pains of owning such a challenging animal. Learn more about all-natural horse products at Jody Webb’s blog,


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